Though China-US relations are regarded as the most important bilateral ties for China, the US was not even a front-runner, or to be more accurate, a straggler when it comes to Chinese people's pick of favorite country or the country they want to visit most.
According to a survey conducted by the Global Times' Poll Center in December, the US ranked 15th in the list of countries Chinese people like the best.
Only 3.8 percent of the surveyed said the US would be the country they most want to visit, a 10.6 percent drop compared to last year, said a report on the survey of how Chinese people view the world.
The report was based on 1,000 valid questionnaires received from residents of 10 Chinese cities.
When asked which foreign relations have the biggest influence on China, 63.5 percent of the respondents picked China-US relations, the highest percentage among all China-foreign relations.
China-Russia relations ranked second at 37.6 percent, while China-EU relations and China-Japan relations were picked by 21.7 percent and 12.7 percent of respondents respectively.
This is the 13th consecutive year that China-US relations were ranked the most important bilateral relations for China by Chinese respondents in the "Chinese see the world" survey. However, this year's number is the lowest in history, down 13 percentage points from 2017.
In contrast, the importance of China-EU relations, in the eyes of the respondents, reached the highest level since 2010 this year.
Ni Feng, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies, told the Global Times that these statistics show that most Chinese still recognize the importance of China-US relations, and that the influence of the US' China policy hasn't changed.
The Chinese public's expectations of the US have declined, and they are looking in other directions to avoid risks of disputes with the US, Ni said, noting that "the rise of the importance of China-EU relations in the survey is a natural reflection of this mentality."
In response to a question about changes of bilateral ties in 2018, 68.9 percent of the respondents believe China-US ties became strained, while 25.7 percent think there were more tensions in China-Japan ties. Nearly half of all respondents expected more strained China-US ties in 2019.
Among the top five international events that impressed the respondents most in 2018, the US was involved with two - the China-US trade friction and the meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Nearly 60 percent of the respondents voted for the trade friction.
Beauty or the beast
Wang Yiwei, a professor from the School of International Relations of Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that the trade friction between China and the US was undoubtedly "the most shocking and hurtful" event in 2018.
Wang said that to many Chinese elites, the US is like a combination of "beauty and beast" - charming enough to attract followers, but with rebarbative and arbitrary diplomatic policies. And now the beauty seems gone forever, leaving only the beast, he said.
"China also needs to adjust its policies toward the US and toward other regions in the world," Wang said.
Asked what they think of the international political environment China faced in 2018 and if they think it posed a threat or an opportunity to China, over 80 percent of the interviewees said they think the West has the intention or has already taken steps to contain China.
Among the respondents, 45 percent think the West has taken obvious steps to contain China, up 8.2 percentage points from the results in 2017. Meanwhile, 36.7 percent think the West "has the intention to contain China but hasn't taken obvious steps," 4.8 percentage points lower than in 2017.
Although more Chinese have felt gradually obvious containment practices from the West, nearly 90 percent of respondents held a positive view toward the future.
Zhang Yiwu, a professor from Peking University, told the Global Times that every Chinese can feel the change of the complicated international environment, but they have lost no confidence.